A new employee whistleblower complaint coming out of the Phoenix Department of Veterans Affairs health care system alleges that after Lisa Tadano reported the problem of unqualified staff to a local news station, she became a prime target for harassment and retaliation.
As a veteran and employee of the VA, Tadano originally filed a whistleblower complaint back in early March this year. Concerned about a lack of suicide prevention training, as well as the use of unqualified staff to assist nurses, Tadano figured that bringing the problem to the Office of Special Counsel was the correct course of action.
More specifically, Tadano noted that sometimes house keepers—and even food workers—are given complete charge of suicidal veterans, a practice which began in 2013 to combat understaffing. Local news station ABC 15 confirmed this allegation. In response, the Phoenix VA claimed that food workers can always call for help from supervisors if needed.
But the reality is that the use of untrained workers presents an extreme danger to suicidal vets.
“I walked in and found a housekeeper perched back in a recliner snoring louder than the two patients he was supposed to be watching,” Tadano told ABC 15 in early March.
A new addendum to her first complaint states that near the end of March, Linda Wieler, her former nurse manager, harassed her about deciding to talk to the media, repeating twice that her appearance on television was a “crack up.”
Additionally, after she blew the whistle, Tadano requested a Sensitive Patient Access Report on April 24, 2015, which shows who accessed her patient records.
“I found that my sensitive patient records were accessed by individuals who had no authority or connections to my treatment at this facility to view them,” Tadano stated in the addendum, after receiving the document on May 11.
Penny Miller, a VA employee, accessed her records on Aug. 11, 2014. Miller never oversaw any of Tadano’s treatment for cancer in early 2014. This is the same Miller who accessed the records of Brandon Coleman, Tadano’s former therapist and also a whistleblower at the Phoenix VA.
Again, Miller was not involved in the treatment of Coleman, either, despite accessing his records on June 25, 2014—long before he decided to blow the whistle in December that same year.
“What matters is Miller has never ever been involved in any of my medical treatment and thus has no reason to be in my file unless she was snooping or looking for something she has no right seeing as per HIPAA and the Privacy Act of 1974,” Brandon Coleman, a VA addiction therapist and veterans’ advocate, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
When Coleman asked why numerous employees had accessed his records, the Phoenix VA told him that because it was simply an innocent mistake, no action would be taken.
Since the interview with ABC 15, other VA employees have also accessed Tadano’s records.
“I cannot believe that this is an innocent mistake,” she stated in her new filing.
This isn’t the first time allegations have surfaced of the Phoenix VA mishandling or neglecting suicidal veterans. At the end of April, Shirley Fobke, the wife of a veteran who killed himself after receiving a misdiagnosis of terminal cancer, sued the Phoenix VA, following a denial of her claim for $2.5 million. (RELATED: Phoenix VA Gets Sued After Totally Wrong Diagnosis Leads To Suicide)
Just last week, 53-year-old veteran Thomas Murphy committed suicide in the parking lot of the Phoenix VA, which observers called a symbolic act representing the VA’s mistreatment of vulnerable veterans. (RELATED: Veterans’ Suicide At Troubled Phoenix VA Called ‘Ultimate,’ Tragic Symbolic Act)
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